by Maren Schober
Few people have contributed more to the history of Waterford than Robert Leland Bachman. As a history teacher at Waterford High School, member of the Waterford Historical Society, founder of the annual Sheep to Shawl program in Waterford and author of “An Illustrated History of Waterford, CT” in 2000, Robert releases his passion for history by serving his Waterford community. He is loved and respected by all who know him.
Do you have any questions about past events or personalities in Waterford? Just ask Robert. As he says in his book, “Waterford was the desired address of a Rhodes Scholar, has Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners and boasts of the first black box (flight date recorder). It was in Waterford that young actor Michael Douglas was hoisted to the lofty top of a former ship’s mast.”
It is a pleasure talking with Robert today.
“I was born in Decatur, MI in 1923 to Charles and Frances Bachman. My dad and mother worked for the telephone company and we moved around a lot with the company. I grew up in Coloma, MI.”
A trip to Los Angeles when Robert was a boy also remains fresh in his memory.
“My father drove me and my grandfather out to Los Angeles to visit my great Uncle. I remember seeing a Mary Pickford movie but most of all I remember this unusual restaurant. All the food moved around on a carousel behind a large glass window pane. When you saw what you wanted you opened a little glass door, pulled out the food dish and put it on your tray. You had to do it fast because the food would keep on moving. If you didn’t act quick enough the person next to you would get the food!”
Robert graduated from Coloma High School in 1941 and joined the Navy.
“I was sent to the New London Submarine Base. I thought the Navy Base was in New London. You can imagine my surprise when the taxi driver picked me up at the New London train station and then drove me over the bridge to Groton. I wondered where I was going!”
It was in Groton that Robert met his future wife, Claudia Stewart.
“Claudia was very musically talented and she was the church organist at my Huntington St. Baptist Church in New London.”
After his three years service in WW II, Robert and Claudia married and moved to Illinois where Robert attended the U. of Illinois earning his teaching degree.
“Then I went back to Coloma and taught one year in the same two room rural school house that my Grandma Bachman attended when she was a girl. I taught the upper grades fifth to eighth.”
Robert then taught history four years at Coloma High School and moved to Waterford to be closer Claudia’s family.
“I have traveled all over the world,” Robert shares, “but my favorite place is CT.”